MSD Manual

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Professional Version

Tuberculosis in Free-Range and Captive Wild Animals


Nuno Santos

, PhD, CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto

Reviewed/Revised Mar 2023 | Modified Jun 2023

Besides cervids, the major wildlife maintenance hosts of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex infection are African buffalo, North American bison, water buffalo, lechwe, wild boars, brushtail possums, and European badgers. Species in which Mycobacterium bovis infection has been reported but that are considered spillover hosts include Arabian oryx, impala, sitatunga, springbok, eland, wildebeest, greater kudu, muntjac, deer, yak, European bison, Bactrian camel, dromedary, giraffe, white and black rhinoceros, tapir, warthog, moose, Iberian ibex, tiger, lion, snow leopard, Iberian lynx, coyote, brown bear, otters, large-spotted genet, hares, moles, voles, and hedgehogs, among others.

Several species have been found infected only in captive settings. M tuberculosis has been isolated from oryx, black rhinoceros, addaxes, and Rocky Mountain goats. Mycobacterium orygis has been isolated in Indian rhinoceros, axis deer, blue bulls, and rhesus monkeys; Mycobacterium suricattae, in meerkats; Mycobacterium mungi, in banded mongoose; and Mycobacterium microti, in wild boars, red deer, and rodents.

Tuberculous lesions vary in consistency from purulent to caseous and often involve the lungs and regional lymph nodes; other potential sites are liver, spleen, and serosal surfaces. Comparative intradermal tuberculin tests are conducted in the cervical region using Mycobacterium avium and M bovis purified protein derivative (PPD); however, interferon-gamma and serologic assays are increasingly being used in some species.

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